REQUEST TO CELI: ‘PAY $12,500 BACK TO SHIRE’
The Mornington Peninsula Shire councillor overspend saga appears set to boil over at this week’s council meeting, scheduled for Tuesday 26 April at Flinders. (7pm at Flinders Civic Hall.)
A Notice of Motion scheduled to be moved by Cr Hugh Fraser requires Cr Antonella Celi “to pay the sum of $12,520.11” to the shire by 10 September this year.
This sum is believed to be an overspend of Cr Celi’s $4000 a year allowance for seminars and conferences.
The NOM adds that, failing payment, “management proceed to take … steps” to recover the amount from Cr Celi.
A second part of the NOM would require Cr Celi to pay the legal costs the shire incurred – at her request – on 7 March from the shire’s law firm Maddocks. The size of the legal bill is not mentioned.
It is believed the Maddocks advice was that the shire could not recover the overspend by Cr Celi who, a January council document indicated, breached by 78.25% her total four-year allowance of $16,000 for attending seminars and conferences.
This matter is sure to be vigorously debated at Tuesday’s meeting – possibly so vigorously that a second meeting is scheduled for the following night in case debate does not finish at Tuesday’s meeting, which must end by 11.30pm at the latest.
Motions last month from Cr Fraser and others instructed council officers to provide all councillor spending over all allowance areas, including seminars and conferences, by 10 March. These were subsequently discussed and, it is believed, some figures were amended.
Another motion required that any councillor found to have overspent their allowances must repay the excess sum.
A number of councillors in that debate, including Lynn Bowden and Bev Colomb, referred to councillors’ responsibility to monitor their spending of what is ratepayers’ money.
It is now clear that Cr Celi was found to have overspent in at least one allowance area.
It is believed the shire has legal discretion not to enforce payment in a number of areas, such as parking fines and the like, where an error might have been made or a ratepayer might be able to demonstrate financial hardship.
Late payment of rates is enforced, with an interest rate of 9.5% added to the sum owed.
The Bandicoot has sought full release of councillor spending on allowances, arguing that it is a matter of lively public interest.
The Bandicoot believes strongly that ratepayers should know how their money is being spent in all areas where confidentiality is not an issue; that councillors should have nothing to hide in such spending; and that the shire policy of openness and transparency effectively mandates release of this information.
NOTICE OF MOTION 169
Cr. Hugh Fraser has given notice of his intention to move the following motion at this meeting:
That management proceed to request Cr. Celi to pay the sum of $12,520.11 to Council on or before 10 September, 2016 and management make such agreement with Cr. Celi as may be necessary to obtain payment to Council by 10 September, 2016.
In default of payment by 10 September, 2016 management proceed to take all such steps and do all such things as may be necessary to recover the sum oF $12,520.11 from Cr. Celi.
Within 21 days of the date of this resolution Cr. Celi pay to Council the legal costs incurred by Council in obtaining the advice of Maddocks, Lawyers, dated 7 March, 2016 – obtained by management at the request of Cr. Celi.